This post is a part of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We meet the first Wednesday of every month to share our doubts and fears, or words of encouragement on obstacles conquered. For more information, follow the link to Alex’s site. Hope to see you next month.
The following story took place last month after the group met, and as I experienced it, thought how appropriate it would be for an IWSG post:
It’s early September, around midday, as I drive my sister to an interview in the southern part of the county. Seeing as though I rarely make it down here, the place is closer than I remember and seems to have stepped out from behind the trees. I make a last-minute skid into the gravel lot while a mild oath slips my lips and is lost to the crunch of the rocks below.
“Dang it! There’s no <CRUNCHING> spaces left in the <CRUNCH, CRUNCHING> shade.” Crunch, crunch, crunch.
It’s as if the rocks were censoring what was truly on my mind. Although autumn nears, September in Florida still has days that swelter—even in the northern panhandle, my home.
Today is one of them.
Sis enters the cool, air-conditioned restaurant while I wilt in the car, the voices on the radio melting in the background. I give in to the demands of the heat. “I gotta open these doors and get some air crossing through here.”
My Silver Chevy Cobalt has become a Giant Baked Potato hot enough to fry an egg, bacon, toast, and cook a pot of grits on the dashboard. I realize how hungry I am. How I long for the days of the Cold War, when pots and pans, groceries, and gas masks were common in the trunk. I make a mental note.
While waiting, crisp hints of sea spray and smoky mesquite waft through the car—a welcome pleasure to my nose—and I take full advantage, leaning the seat back and closing my eyes to enjoy the free aromatherapy. The Doppler hum of a passing car mimics the sound of ocean waves, and if I weren’t broiling, I’d probably fall asleep. My mind wanders.
The errant cry of a grey heron rouses me and my eyes flip open like Susie Wake-up Doll, darting around the marsh to spot him.
But my random thoughts fight back and take lead. I do a great deal of musing when left in the sun to die, and—as long as my strength holds up and I have a pen—usually jot down some notes. Since it’s only a few hundred feet from the beach and the place smells like smoked ribs, perhaps I’ll wither with a smile on my face.
Sis’s interview consists of a group meeting first, then personal interviews afterward. In other words, it’s going to take forever. Liters of sweat puddle in the bucket seats. You could skip rocks.
No worries. By now I’m in full zonage, entranced by a yellow paint blemish on the side of the diner. It’s only a smidgen of yellow, except a canary-hair brighter, which clashes with the mustard of the older paint. It becomes my focal point, or should I say “unfocal” point.
The unfocal point is not something I look at but through—where the world around me fades and a new one appears. My eyes grow fuzzy as they stare the blotch down and punch through to the world of the imagination and beyond. I guess this is my mind’s eye. I’m focusing with my mind’s eye. Focus…focus…
A bug lands on my nose. Two of them actually, joined at the nads. Egads.
They fly away and two more immediately take their place and crawl across my deviated septum to commit their deviant acts. Blatant fornicators! They’re humping in mid-air and on the dash where the grits would be—they’re all over the place. Yes, it’s love bug season in Florida, and the mating flights are in full fury.
Peering down my schnoz at the newlyweds, the remaining swarm disappears with the next wind and my mind’s eye unfocuses on the couple, who seem to have bedded down for the night.
I drift into the world of the love bug.
In many ways, our works-in-progress are similar to the lifespan of the love bug.
Did you know that a love bug’s life, from egg to adult, only spans about six months in the winter and four in the summer? It’s true. However, as long as there is adequate heat and humidity, new generations can propagate all year.
The eggs hatch in about three days, followed by the larva stage—the longest in the fly’s life. It’s around 120 days in the summer and 240 days in the winter. Then the pupa stage, a week or so, and the adult stage runs the course of three to four days (source). In Florida and along the Gulf into the southern states, we have two mating seasons: April/May and August/September—every year, like clockwork.
Once adults, the flies feed on nectar and follow the winds to find each other and mate. They remain coupled for several days, even after mating, then disengage, allowing the female time to deposit her eggs before she dies. The male dies soon after, either from heartache or a college girl’s license plate.
So what I’m saying is: they get drunk off nectar, let their passions run amok, go hog-wild on Labor Day Weekend and screw themselves to death. But in the thrill of it all, they leave behind their legacies.
How’s that like our WIPs? Look at the lifespan in its entirety. The eggs, or our ideas, incubate and hatch early in the game. While the female love bug lays approximately 350 eggs, our minds create thousands of story ideas dying to see light. If not nurtured in the larva stage, they succumb to the forgotten lands and eventually become mulch.
Notice that the larva stage is the longest, as is the development stage of your WIP. This is the time that the grub grows and gains strength. He goes through changes and revisions, toils and triumphs, gradually becoming the bug he is meant to be.
In the pupa stage, we near our time to emerge. We find an agent, editor, publisher, do marketing, etc. The book is finished, but needs an audience. This stage and the next can be the most trying on us, after all, important people are judging our work. We realize we’ll feel exposed and vulnerable. What if nobody likes it? How many rejections can one person take? Was this all a foolish lark? Years upon years down the drain.
And then a publisher accepts and releases our book.
We’re now adults. We molt our pupae skins and sun our wings, take flight on the next available wind, and get drunk on the nectar of life. Our book has been released and set free in the wild. We’re full of passion and vigor, spreading love and vitality. We celebrate, the book does well, and then, like all things in life, eventually runs its course.
BAM! Smack-dab in the middle of a license plate.
In the meantime, other eggs have been laid. Lives—and stories—begin anew.
ML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.
An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and is writing a novel about his experience in caregiving.
He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.
42 thoughts on “Love Bugs and Dog Days”
Those whacky little love bugs! I think I keep mixing up my lifecycle for my manuscripts – feels like I get splattered on the windscreen a lot, but I must have missed the drunken bug orgies.
Great post, I’d once again forgotten about the IWSG! You’re my calendar 🙂
Most of my ms’s never get beyond the egg stage. Too many to develop as pupae. I’ll let you know when the next bug orgy takes place.
What an enjoyable read! As one who seems to be stuck in the larval stage, I can appreciate the idea that it’s okay to be in this stage longer than any other, so thanks. 🙂
I hope your sister got the job!
The larva stage is an excellent place to be “stuck” because that’s the stage your story gets stronger…able to weather the weather, as well as those nasty critics! Thanks for coming by, Kirsten. Oh, and Sis did get the job, so my near-death from exposure was worth it.
I loved this post and I can relate to the love bugs. Pesky little things, both in real life and metaphorically. I can’t tell you how many eggs my mind has laid that have been crushed, scattered…forgotten. Hmm. I wonder if NaNoWriMo would be considered the nectar stage??? It’s getting close to that time of year, you know.
By the way, did Sis get the job?
NaNo is the larva stage, where we take that egg and feed it, nurture it, let it go. We don’t see the nectar until we’re adults…old enough to drink! I’ve had thousands of eggs turn to mulch. I just can’t nurture them all.
And yes, Sis did get the job. All was not for naught. 🙂
Screw themselves to death – what a way to go!
Getting to that point does take the longest. We can’t rush it either.
Otherwise, we end up splatted.
With a smile. 🙂
Yes, my point exactly. Spend as much time as necessary in the larva stage, and the adult stage will be glorious. Better than sex. You’ll be much more confident in your work. And then we nurture the next hatched egg.
Mike, I just love your writing. The lush descriptions were so nice to sink into. Well now, seems like it’s time we both take your perspective to heart and let our bugs mature! Your post reminds me that it’s one thing to have all this head knowledge, another to act on it.
Lovely post. (Excuse me, but your gift is showing…)
Exactly. It’s that pupa to adult stage that is most trepidatious.
And thanks. Your gift shows in everything you write, and your personable spirit shines in all you do. 🙂
Mike, I love that I never know where you’re going to take me with a post or a story. I’m in the (sweltering) car and happily along for the ride, because the journey is always so well worth it.
Here’s to many new larvae and blissfully screwing adults! *raises a glass of nectar*
Clink! Here’s to you, Liz!
Yeah…I try to mix it up when relating a message. Practice by throwing some creative writing in there. I’ve a busy non-computer day ahead and will be over soon to see the treat you’ve left everyone. Thanks for coming by. 🙂
“Egads” is right! Thanks for the hilarious post. I can use all the laughs I can get, since I have several projects at the larva stage and seriously doubt they’ll every reach the pupa stage. But I can hope…
Thanks for commenting on my blog, Michael. No, that isn’t me in the pic, although I was young and pretty once, quite a long time ago! lol
I enjoyed your post and wish your mojo back. Of course, you may have to travel back to the 70’s for it to happen.
And most of my stories live in the larva stage. A page. A paragraph. A sentence. I wish I had time to help them all mature.
NOICE! M. L. Swift, Writer, what a phat post! (That’s nearly middle-aged me trying to sound hipper for fun and effect. (Or would that be affect?))
Anyway, a few highlights:
‘How I long for the days of the Cold War,’
brought my first ironic smile
‘The Doppler hum of a passing car mimics the sound of ocean waves and if I weren’t broiling’
more smiles as I munch on my blueberry breakfast
‘I do a great deal of musing when left in the sun to die,’
‘The unfocal point is not something I look at but through—where the world around me fades and a new one appears. My eyes grow fuzzy as they stare the blotch down and punch through to the world of the imagination and beyond. I guess this is my mind’s eye. I’m focusing with my mind’s eye.’
Got a bit muse-y myself at this point
‘A bug lands on my nose. Two of them actually, joined at the nads.’
unexpected, deep-throated, full-on laugh–that lasts several seconds
Last two sentences, totally lovely and moving. Good job, boy-o.
Cut! Print! And Frame!
Suze, this was probably the best comment I’ve ever received. Thorough, thoughtful, and complimentary with specifics because sometimes I wonder, “okay you liked it, but where?” I appreciate that because a couple of those sentences had to be worked and reworked until they sounded right to my ear. It’s good to know it was worth it and not some foolish dalliance on my part.
Thank you, thank you. You made my day. I figured the length and way the “share” was given—in short story form—might not fly. So glad it did. 🙂
LOL – love bugs. Those silly little creatures…
I can totally relate to your climate. It’s still getting up into the 90s here in Houston. I want a cold front!
Great post, as always. 🙂
Don’t y’all get love bugs in Houston (as I slip into my sloppy southern speech pattern)?
And you’re taking a hiatus? Is that what I understood? Or just from IWSG today?
If you ever need me, I’m always here, except when I’m not. 🙂
Isn’t this an original way to look at writing? I’ve never thought of writing like bug love, hahaha. Actually, never liked bugs much but certainly I see your point. And I must add, I absolutely adore the way you slip into deep meditation. 🙂 You come up with very creative perspectives.
As do you, Al. Very creative perspectives. Thanks for coming by…I sort of have a gist of what’s going on, but I still need to send you an email. Another one!
Take care…and dwarves, help out a little more!
Never would have related my writing to love bugs…nicely done!!!! 🙂
Thanks, RGG! I can relate a burp to writing if given a minute.
Okay…minute’s up: Your true primitive voice: uninhibited, usually indecipherable, and, like our stories, bursts out and bellows in a way that only you can express. 🙂
Thanks again for coming by.
*LOL* Wow. I’m never going to look at bugs fornicating the same way again. Terrific post!
All inhibitions left to the wind! Thanks for coming by Christine.
Haha! I never thought about our writing as the lifespan of a love bug but it fits. 🙂
Most of my life I’ve felt like a grub. 😉
Bugs having sex on your nose. There truly is an unending resource for writing- metaphors all around us isn’t there? Maybe I should change the file-title of my WIP to “Love Bugs Doing It”.
Loved this post Michael!
I’m sure anything with “Doing It” in the title will sell like hotcakes, Susie! Thanks for stopping by and reading about my little outing.
LOL. First of all, you’re a good brother. Hope your sister got the job. And bugs are dang hard to wash off the car. Maybe you could write a sequel about how when a new book/bug is released as an adult, it reanimates interest in the old dead ones, making backlists like zombie lovebugs coming back to life.
Hmmm…do I hear the sounds of new eggs hatching?
Susan, in my research, the love bugs have an acidic pH which will peel the paint off a car if allowed to dry. Talk about Zombie love bugs! They could do some real damage. Thanks for coming by. And yes, Sis got the job. 🙂
Very clever analogy! I like the idea of an ‘unfocal’ point–I’ve experienced this before, but never thought to name it 🙂
If you’ve experienced it, then you know exactly what I mean…all the rest of the world goes blank, almost disappearing into tunnel vision and then a break-through to your thoughts, which flow past like rapids. Dive in and hang on for the ride!
Thanks for coming by.
Ha, I love your analogy, especially the larva stage being the longest. So, so true.
Oh, and Mike, you have a wonderful way with words. Beautiful.
Aww, shucks, Lyn (looking down and kicking at the dirt with my toes). You humble me.
Yes…I remain a grub waiting to cocoon into a pupa. Thanks for stopping and commenting. 🙂
Holy perfect analogy!
Swift, you’re *such* a writer. I mean, just reading a paragraph of your words (in a blog post!) and it’s apparent. You draw the reader in. And your analogies are funny. Laughing at the crunching.
Thanks for this fun post. (Of course all your posts rock!) 🙂
It’s almost how I talk, too. 🙂
I’ll be over before long…backlogged on some stuff that needs to be done first, but I always enjoy your IWSG posts and will definitely be there.
Michael, good sir,
Indeed, such a vivid analogy. And once again, I state that analogy is evidently not the scientific study of a**holes! 🙂
Love bugs, eh. I’m suddenly thinking of a Volkswagen. With that, I shall fly away like the pretty butterfly I have become.
Nice one and have a pleasant weekend.
“I shall fly away like the pretty butterfly I have become.” You took one-too-many of the blue pills again, Gary. 🙂
Good to see you and hope you’re doing better. Seriously. Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting.
Mike, thank you for taking us on this philosophical, exhilarating, sexy, tragic, yet highly spiritual journey of the love bug – as analogous to the writer’s path. Only one question remains: Did your sister get the job?
Hugs, silly man.
Sis did indeed get the job and has been training this past week.
Loved your interview w/ the Idol judges, and the classifieds, too. You are too funny. 🙂
Our manuscripts definitely go through lifestyles of various lengths — and it’s pointless to compare one writer’s novel genesis to another’s. But love bugs…Aren’t they supposed to look like Volkswagen Beetles?
Only if they have those flowers like you used to see on The Dating Game painted on them.
Thanks for swinging by, Milo…it was a pleasure to see you again.